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The Kew Photoheliograph and Temporary Observatory, Spain, 1860.


© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library

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Engraving from the 'Illustrated London News'. The Kew photoheliograph was the first astronomical instrument specifically designed for photographing celestial objects. Conceived by the British astronomer and physicist Warren de La Rue (1815-1889) in 1857, it was built for the Royal Society by the London instrument maker Andrew Ros (1798-1859). Originally installed at Kew Observatory, it was used by de la Rue to take regular photographs of the Sun. In 1860, it was taken to Rivabellosa, near Miranda del Ebro, in northern Spain, where it was used to photograph a total solar eclipse. The images obtained were used to resolve the debate over whether solar prominences were intrinsic to the Sun or merely atmospheric effects.
 
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